Many business owners devote considerable amounts of time and energy into trying to ascertain a dollar value amount that reflects their Intellectual Property (IP). One of the biggest obstacles is mainly attributable to one of IP's greatest strengths: its intangibility. Unlike the costs of scaling up the production of goods or even services, fully developed IP can be licensed and easily shared with others who want to benefit from its use.
A well-known Rodgers & Hammerstein song lyric asks, "How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?" In essence, the management of a company's IP asks executives to do just that: capture something as ethereal as an idea and apply it to concrete, value-adding business activities.
IP protects a product or service you have developed that sets you apart from other companies and frames your business, its purpose and growth potential. The real value of IP depends on how well it can be leveraged so that your company maintains a competitive advantage within your industry. However, the ability to leverage IP is reliant on how well it is managed. If your business wants to make effective use of these intangible properties, here are seven tips on how to build robust IP management systems:
1. Regular IP audits
IP is a catch-all phrase for many types of intangible assets that may be protectable through patents, trademarks, copyrights and more. Firms that are just starting to track their IP will want to begin with a thorough investigation of their existing properties that are protectable. Those who have collected this information in the past will want to regularly audit their company's IP and the procedures used to manage it. This can sharpen the IP owners' focus, helping them to eliminate wasteful assets and processes while focusing on improving the effectiveness of more crucial ones.
2. Team education
It is essential to educate your staff to make sure no one compromises your company's IP assets. Check if all employees know how to safeguard the IP portfolio against mistakes which include unknowingly sharing IP with a third party before it can be trademarked or patented. A full-service provider for global IP management can have consultants regularly meet with your team to provide further information on IP so everyone can handle it appropriately.
3. Regulatory compliance
Filing applications to obtain IP rights requires a tremendous amount of attention to detail and the ability to follow rules that can be exceedingly complex. Furthermore, government agencies frequently change their practices, affecting applicants in unforeseen ways; just look at the USPTO's recent decision requiring foreign domiciled trademark applicants to use U.S.-licensed attorneys for U.S. trademark filings. Staying on top of a particular IP office's rules is an endless chore that multiplies with the number of countries in which your firm operates. The best IP management software solutions are designed to help you comply with all legal requirements from jurisdictions around the world.
4. Detailed records
Keeping accurate records of your IP can also help you prove ownership. Creating a paper trail that shows how you have conceived an invention is a crucial element of the patent procurement process. When applying for trademarks in the U.S., for example, you will have to submit a specimen of use depicting how your mark is displayed in commerce. Even email correspondence can be important to record if it is related to a licensing discussion or an invention disclosure.
A reliable software solution provides executives an enterprise-level tool for recording IP-related data and keeping it accessible to the right staff. Users can drag and drop documentation directly into the interface to collect records in a central location.
5. Highly organized information
A well-functioning IP management system needs to focus on how IP-related information is organized. That means more than just assuring that the correct data, dates and documents are stored away in the correct folders. Your business might have products that are each covered by a range of patents and trademarks. You might have patents covering more than one product. You will also have a lot of due dates to meet in a timely fashion for payment of issue fees, annuities and other costs. Managing IP well has a lot to do with indexing information so it can be found quickly when the need arises.
6. Data visualization
The amount of data, even in a small IP portfolio, can make a person's eyes hurt trying to read and comprehend it all. A reliable software solution for IP management will provide a variety of data visualizations that presents information in a way that can be clearly understood. For example, instead of just giving a list of countries, Dennemeyer's DIAMS iQ uses world maps showing the countries in which a particular IP asset has coverage.
When it comes to IP management, there is no substitute for the knowledge that can only be gained by experience. As everyone knows, the process of applying for patents or trademarks is dense with deadlines and complicated filing procedures. Expertise in handling the management of IP assets is something that is learned over time, but it provides valuable insights on where to focus your time and energy.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.